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Fondazione Siena Jazz Summer Workshop 2013

John Kelman By

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Of course, a modern-day jazz workshop would be remiss if its only focus was on the classic jazz repertoire. Director Franco Caroni reaffirms Martinelli: "Our studies are based mostly on playing music, so students have to play a lot and with different repertoires—not only the classic jazz repertoire, but also modern jazz. Also, the teachers are very different; we have Americans and we have Europeans. In the past year we've had John Taylor, Anders Jormin and Stefano Battaglia, for example. Stefano teaches a 32-hour course about improvisation techniques [during the winter program], and no conservatory has such a course.



"The aim is that students who graduate have a practical knowledge of the classic repertoire, but also of contemporary jazz," Caroni continues. "We do less classic repertoire than contemporary because music is changing. So, in the first year there's a lot of basic knowledge; in the second year, the contemporary repertoire rises. We take away some theory and replace it with more time for practice and combo classes. We should have a two-year Master's course; we did do an interim sort of thing, with 60 teachers, changing the faculty every two months. We had 42 students, but we were not recognized by the minister so it was more of a private thing."

While, over the years, the Fondazione has built a program that was finally recognized and accredited as a Bachelor's program in 2012, the Summer Workshop remains, in some ways, its flagship—the program that has really placed the Fondazione on the international map. "In the summer program, about twenty percent of the students are from outside of Italy, Germany, France and Denmark" says Martinelli. Some people come from very far away. Last year we had musicians from Australia and Argentina. Of course, some of them are not just coming for Siena; some of them are coming for a summer in Europe—going to festivals and other courses as well."

But in order to really work, there needs to be some degree of parity with the Fondazione's offerings and those of other institutions, both inside and outside of Italy. "It's getting there, because Franco is very active in this field," explains Martinelli. "Franco is very active in the coordination of European jazz schools and the global coordination of jazz schools in order to get as even a curriculum as possible. It's getting to be so that you could do one year in Denmark and then come and do a second year in Siena. Several times we've had an exchange of scholarships with Berklee [College of Music, in Boston], where we send two students there and they send two students to us."

It may have had grassroots beginnings—and is still run on a tight budget, with just five administrative staff in addition to the professors—but Fondazione Siena Jazz's impact on the Italian jazz scene, in particular, is immeasurable. "Most, if not all Italian jazz musicians under 40—maybe even under 50—have been to Siena," Martinelli says. "Enrico Rava's Electric Five group, with two electric guitars? They were all in the same workshop, the same year. Paolo Fresu's Quintet—Roberto Cipelli, Ettore Fioravanti , Tino Tracanna, Attilio Zanchi —was born in Siena."

What's more impressive is how the Fondazione's reputation has been built. "Word of mouth largely drives the workshop," Martinelli continues. "But it's very well-known, not just in Italy, but around the world. Where else can you learn one week with John Taylor and the next with Kenny Wheeler or Palle Danielsson? With people like that behind you, it can really raise your game. On top of the combos, they have instrumental teachers and instrumental lessons—one-to-one, though not necessarily with the same person. It's extremely intense, because they [the students] never go to bed [laughs]. I mean, you're here with 100 other young guys and girls from all over the world who share your passion for music. Who goes to bed? They get together and play until all hours of the morning.



"For many of them it's their first experience networking, actually meeting people from so many places, getting in touch and planning some ideas. 40 years ago, there was no Euro and you needed a passport to get to France; now you can move across borders using the same money, and you can network with people in the flesh. I mean, things like Facebook are all well and good; but to meet people and play together with them is a different story."

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